People react as the passenger rocket plane operated by Virgin Galactic takes off, during the company’s first commercial flight to the edge of space, at the Spaceport America facility, in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, U.S., June 29, 2023.
Jose Luis Gonzalez | Reuters
Taking off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the company’s spacecraft was flown by a pair of pilots and carried four passengers: a Virgin Galactic trainer, to oversee the mission from inside the cabin, and its first trio of paying customers. The three paying passengers are members of the Italian Air Force. The flight also carried 13 research payloads onboard.
Virgin Galactic’s start to commercial service comes after years of delays and setbacks. The company previously said if Galactic 01 was a success, it would plan to fly its second mission as soon as August and then aim to begin flying its spacecraft, VSS Unity, once a month.
Virgin Galactic stock fell 13% Thursday after the successful flight.
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The company continues to raise capital to fund development of its coming Delta class of spacecraft, aiming to build a fleet of vehicles that can each fly at least once a week.
Virgin Galactic has a backlog of about 800 passengers. Many of those tickets were sold at prices between $200,000 and $250,000 over a decade ago, but the company reopened ticket sales two years ago, with pricing beginning at $450,000 per seat.